Forest-Related Solutions for Sustainable Development

Erik Novak, Secretary, United Nations Forum on Forests

Committee Background

Forests provide a crucial contribution to life on Earth and human well-being, being responsible for the livelihood of over 1.6 billion people; providing shelter, relief, wood and fuel, protection against floods, droughts, contributing to carbon sequestration, and housing nearly 80% of all land biodiversity. However, we often interact with them in a manner that is not sustainable, wherein all the benefits they provide us will get exhausted with time.

Efforts to curb this unsustainability have been globally debated for decades, but only in 2000 was an actual focused, encompassing body created to centralize debate on the issue. With Resolution 2000/35 of the ECOSOC, the IAS was formed, whose many operative body, the UNFF, has since taken great strides in uniting the world around the conservation and sustenance of forests worldwide. Specifically, the passing of the UN Forest Instrument, and then the 2017-2030 United Nations Strategy Plan for Forests the UNFF has created a framework to mitigate unsustainable forestry and a mechanism to help countries quantify how successful they are in implementing it. Indeed, the work of the UNFF and growing awareness of forestry led to the 15th SDG being specifically related to forestry in sustainable development.

However, there are still many impediments to success in sustainable forestry. The difficulty of apprehending poachers and tackling the illicit wildlife market, the natural disasters that may afflict forests due to indirect human action, the effects of pollution, the survivor-based deforestation communities may engage in if sufficiently impoverished, desperate or ill-instructed, all these present barriers that are complex and challenging, and require multifaceted proposals for solutions both in the short-term and long-term.

However, the future is promising. With momentum, the possibility of new technologies, and general public acceptance, there is plenty of room for private and public initiatives, growth in bilateral and multilateral cooperation at a regional level, an increase in the understanding of sustainable forestry in the layman, and for forests to become fully sustainable worldwide in preparation of the growing demand that will be put upon them as our population grows. All that is needed is time for further dialogue and consensus in the UNFF.